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EPL Week 1 Predictions: Opening Premier League Picks, Key Players and Fixtures

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistAugust 6, 2018

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 06:  Vincent Kompany of Manchester City lifts the Premier League Trophy as Manchester City celebrate winning the Premier League after the Premier League match between Manchester City and Huddersfield Town at Etihad Stadium on May 6, 2018 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The Premier League returns to stadiums and television screens around the globe this weekend, with excitement rife ahead of the 2018-19 campaign.

Manchester City will be tasked with defending the title they won with such ease last term, when they mustered a record 100-point total. The likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur will want to make things a little tougher for them this time, though.

Meanwhile, there are some fascinating new additions to the division in Wolverhampton Wanderers, Fulham and Cardiff City.

Wolves and the Cottagers have spent big money following promotion and are expected to spring a few shocks on their return to the top flight.

Here are the Week 1 fixtures, a prediction for each encounter and a look at a couple of players who will be keen to make a strong first impression.

        

Friday, August 10

Manchester United vs. Leicester City (1-1)

        

Saturday, August 11

Newcastle United vs. Tottenham Hotspur (0-2)

Bournemouth vs. Cardiff City (2-1)

Fulham vs. Crystal Palace (1-1)

Huddersfield Town vs. Chelsea (1-3)

Watford vs. Brighton (1-1)

Wolves vs. Everton (1-1)

       

Sunday, August 12

Liverpool vs. West Ham United (3-1)

Southampton vs. Burnley (1-1)

Arsenal vs. Manchester City (1-2)

            

Naby Keita, Liverpool

BLACKBURN, ENGLAND - JULY 19: Naby Keita of Liverpool at Ewood Park on July 19, 2018 in Blackburn, England. (Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images)
James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Given Liverpool supporters knew Naby Keita was going to arrive at the club in this transfer window a year ago, there's been plenty of excitement about what he will bring to the Premier League.

Reds fans will get the chance to see him in competitive action for the first time against West Ham United. Having impressed in the Bundesliga with RB Leipzig and in pre-season for his new side, it's clear the Guinea international is ready to take English football by storm.

Neil Jones of Goal commented on a standout showing from Keita in the win over Blackburn Rovers recently:

Neil Jones @neiljonesgoal

Keita has been different level, and he wins the ball to set up Sturridge, who this time finishes deftly with the outside of his left foot. 2-0 to #LFC

During his time at Leipzig, the midfielder was a force of nature in so many matches, showing off his multifaceted skill set.

Keita is capable of winning the ball back, driving forward to leave opponents stranded and then produce a pass or a shot that will lead to a goal. Given the blistering way in which Liverpool transition through phases of the field, the 23-year-old will potentially add another exciting dimension to their attacking play.

These figures sum up what an all-rounder the Reds are getting:

Squawka Football @Squawka

Naby Keïta for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga: 58 games 150 take-ons 146 tackles won 118 interceptions 112 fouls won 86 shots 79 chances created 14 goals 12 assists Next stop: Anfield 🔴 https://t.co/PxbtbiJLVP

West Ham have spent big this summer and will be confident heading to Anfield on Sunday.

However, their plan will surely be to sit deep and contain the attacking riches Liverpool possess; away from Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, Keita is another star man opponents will need to worry about.

        

Mesut Ozil, Arsenal

DUBLIN, IRELAND - AUGUST 01: Mesut Ozil of Arsenal during the International Champions Cup 2018 match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Aviva Stadium on August 1, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Alex Morton/International Champions Cup/Getty Images)
Alex Morton/International Champions Cup/Getty Images

It's been a summer to forget for Mesut Ozil. After Germany's shock elimination from the FIFA World Cup, he retired from the international scene, citing "racism and disrespect."

Now the playmaker's focus will be squarely on Arsenal, starting with the eye-catching opener against Manchester City on Sunday.

In new manager Unai Emery's first competitive game in charge of the club, he will want to see a big performance from the team's new No. 10.

The signs that Ozil has put his international retirement behind him have been positive. As noted by Charles Watts of Football London, he's been at his creative best in pre-season:

Charles Watts @charles_watts

That reverse pass by Ozil to Nelson in the build-up to Lacazette’s goal was worth the entrance fee alone. Superb.

Having flickered in and out of matches under former manager Arsene Wenger, Emery will want to see Ozil at the heart of Arsenal's approach play, especially in the big matches.

The encounter against City will be fascinating. Given the manner in which Pep Guardiola's side operate, Arsenal are unlikely to have as much of the ball as they are used to, meaning attacking players such as Ozil will need to turn in a defensive shift too.

Still, on the counter-attack, the 29-year-old can be a massive asset. Should Ozil find the likes of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in space with his trademark through balls, Arsenal will have a crucial outlet.

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